Last week was the first of the current series of blogs I’m dedicating to Ayurveda and some simple steps to make this 5000 + year-old sister science of yoga part of your lifestyle. Last week I introduced doshas—your energetic personality type, here.
One of the easiest ways to start to foster a balanced lifestyle is to live according to the natural laws of nature. Just as we each have our own energetic biorhythms that define what our essential nature is (doshas), Mother Nature has circadian rhythms that affect us as humans living on this Earth. Ayurveda teaches us how to live, eat, and breathe in harmony with nature.
The Ayurvedic clock / Getting in sync with nature
The Ayurvedic clock is broken down by doshas:
From 2 – 6 AM and PM it is Vata time. As you recall from last week, this dosha is all about movement with qualities of light, subtle, clear, flowing and mobile—among others. From 2 – 6 AM is when our minds are more awake and clear. Ayurveda would say to rise with the sun, no later than 6 AM. Exposure to sunlight also causes a chemical reaction to that makes your body more alert. This is why insomnia experts recommend dimming your lights as the day comes to a close so you don’t have this alertness affect your sleep.
Getting up before 6 AM is actually easier than you think. I’m sure you’ve woken up before 6 AM and felt totally awake, right? That’s Vata time! Ayurveda recommends getting up no later than 6 AM to meditate and do breath practices (pranayama) when your mind is the most clear (Vata).
Once 6 AM hits, it’s Kapha time from 6 – 10 AM and PM. This is the dosha with the force of nourishment, lubrication and structure and has qualities like heavy, gross, dense, static, smooth and cloudy—among others. Kapha time is the hardest time to get motivated. We tend to be groggy (cloudy) this time of day. So sleeping past six will allow the heavier, denser qualities of Kapha to influence your day’s experience. This is why exercising in the morning to help rev up the engine and energize the rest of the day is helpful.
Kapha is also the time in the PM when we start to become sleepy. So Ayurveda recommends going to bed no later than 10 PM. Use the Kapha timeframe to wind down, dim the lights, quit using electronics and chill. Staying up later and fighting the drowsiness Kapha brings could give us a second wind when Pitta is in full force, making all chances of a good night’s rest impossible. Journaling, restorative yoga, some peaceful breath practices, and/or perhaps some relaxing aromatherapy would all be helpful ways to prepare for sleep.
From 10 – 2 AM and PM it’s Pitta’s time to shine. Pitta is the fire dosha with the power of transformation, digestion, and metabolism. This is the time when our digestive fire is the strongest which is why Ayurveda suggests eating your biggest meal at lunch. Eating our biggest meal at the end of the day, as many of us do, falls into Kapha time when our digestive fire is the slowest.
Having less food energy to digest as you sleep allows the second round of Pitta time (10 PM – 2 AM) for digesting and processing all the other intake from the day—our mental energy needs digesting as well. This is the one area we don’t always take into consideration. All the mental energy we took in during the day with emails, phone calls, social media, television, traffic, work-related issues and meetings, needs to be processed by our brain. Our body also turns on its repair functions at this time.
I’m sure you’ve heard how important sleep is for the health, right? Well a big part of that is allowing time for the repair functions that occur while we sleep. Your brain literally clears things out during sleep.
Eating lighter at the end of the day lightens the digestive load, making it easier to rest and detox.
Start to notice when your energy peaks and wanes. Perhaps journal about how you feel on days when you follow the Ayurvedic clock more closely vs. not. Our daily patterns affect our health in so many ways
Many ancient medical systems, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, recognize the seasonal cycles of nature and the benefits of living in balance with nature. Even modern science is catching up with the 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine being awarded to three joint winners for their discovery of how internal clocks and biological rhythms govern human life.
While circadian rhythms can be altered with various changes to your schedule, research shows this isn’t always healthy. Night-shift workers, for example, have been documented as having various health problems. As the old commercial says—“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”